Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Sights of Traverse City (and surrounding areas)

This is going to sound like I'm writing for the Traverse City, Michigan Visitors Bureau.  Perhaps that's because I was so amazed by this place that I feel like we've stumbled onto a secret that everyone has known but me.  I mean what can you say about landscapes like this?


The Mr went on a business trip with his dad when he was 12 and remembered rolling down Sleeping Bear Dunes.  It's all I've heard about for 20 years and I figured his milestone birthday would be the perfect time to take him back.  As I did more research on Traverse City, I began to get excited.  Pictures of TC in autumn were awe inspiring and the water was so blue you could easily mistake it for Hawaii.  You put Fall and Hawaii together and you've basically got my perfect vacation.  Mother Nature had other plans as it was between 45-50 degrees, rainy and windy about 90% of our time there.  In the past it could've been a trip ruiner for us but there was so much to do and see and I'm not made of sugar, I won't melt.

A scenic lookout by the Chateau Grand Traverse affords you this amazing view of the water, vineyards and blazing autumn colors.  I could not picture a more perfect scene if I'd imagined it myself.


If you're a wine drinker, stop by and pick up some of the spiced cherry wine.  We're not drinkers but this was a definite must have for the holiday season.  We'll save it for the inevitable moment of holiday unmerriment at some point in the season.

We made lots of little road trips from our home base at Long Lake and one of them was up to the town of Leland and more specifically, Fishtown.


Fishtown pays homage to Michigan's maritime legacy and is made of weathered little shanties, shops and boats.  Make sure you stop by the Village Cheese Shanty if you go, they are said to have some great sandwiches but we'd already eaten when we got there.  We'll make up for it next time.

There are wonderful little places you can pull over and take in the beauty that surrounds you like this sunset we snagged on the way down from Suttons Bay.


Sleeping Bear Dunes was named "the most beautiful place in America" in 2011 by Good Morning America and it was easy to see why as we roamed the area.  We had our best weather day the day we went there so of course we had to do the Dune Climb.


After hoofing it up to the top and the Mr hurling himself down the hard, wet sand from the night before we went on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.  It is not to be missed!  From the covered bridges...


 ...to stunning overlooks with water so blue you could get lost in it.


Not too far away is Glen Haven Beach which is possibly the most perfect beach and I've been to many of them.


The water is deep blue, smooth stones perfect for skipping line the beach, to either side sand as far as the eye can see and even the remains of a little tugboat called "the good tug Aloha."  It was even given an honorable mention by "Dr. Beach"  (I'd like that guys job)

See this perfect Fall landscape?  A random scenic overlook.


Heavenly.

In Benzie County, north of the town of Frankfort, is the majestic Point Betsie Lighthouse.  Built in the mid 1800's and restored to it's former color scheme not seen since the 1940's, this is one of the most photographed lighthouses and it's easy to see why.


At the roads end through the charming town of Frankfort, you'll come upon the Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse and it is quite possibly one of the loveliest areas we saw.


The Mr is completely smitten with this place and we spent a good amount of time just taking in the view from the swings on the beach and walking out to the lighthouse.


I enjoyed some awesome shopping in downtown TC.  Some of my favorites were Wilson Antiques (both downtown and East Bay locations), The Cherry Stop, Nest of Grand Traverse, Spice Merchants (hi Harley the pup!), Love Traverse City, Great Lakes Bath and Body (the lady there was SUPER nice!) and many more including Country Christmas...


Yeah, you knew the Christmas freak would totally be all over that!  Nice people too!
(Update:  I've been to Bronner's in Frankenmuth.  I'm not partial to the massive crowds there but thanks for the suggestion!)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few things.  Traverse City and the surrounding towns must have some of the nicest people we have ever encountered on Earth.  What I wouldn't give to have these people as my neighbors and friends.  It nearly brought me to tears at times to know there are still such wonderful people in this world.  It's the kind of place that if you broke down on the side of the road, five cars would stop, one guy would say he's got the part you need back in his garage while the other people offer you a dry spot to keep warm while they fix the car and you'd never once think you were going to get robbed or killed.  (I watch way too much Criminal Minds...or the news)

I also feel it needs to be mentioned that this is a town that takes immense pride in it's appearance.  They know they rely on tourists to keep their economy going at least parts of the year and we saw hotels and gas stations repainting any parts that needed it.  In the East Bay area which appears to be geared more toward budget friendly family vacations, there was not a "dive" to be found.  Every hotel had a nice tidy, well kept appearance.  Now I can't speak of the insides but we've been to lots of tourist areas and you always have those few hotels you would never even think of staying in.  We didn't see one that fit that description at all.  Just lots of options for varying budgets and activities for families from mini golf to ziplines and of course water activities in the summer.

Tomorrow, we cover TC eats...responsible for a nice chunk o' weight gain I get to work off again.  But I tell you almost every bite was worth the trouble!

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49 comments:

  1. So glad we went there and it really is like a secret little paradise and I had a great time. Thanks again for all the planning you put into it and for making it a great trip. You're the best!

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    1. You're very welcome! The planning paid off, I had just as much fun doing it as I did planning it. Pictures really don't do it justice!

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  2. Love this! It just made it on my bucket list. Love all the pictures...it is dreamy!!

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    1. I think this time of year is PERFECT to go. The scenery was breathtaking at every turn!

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  3. The photos are truly lovely and this might have to go on my list of places to visit.

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    1. I hope so...we were there a week and we'd leave between 7-9am and not come back until after dark. Plenty to do!

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  4. Beautiful pictures!

    I've never been the Traverse City, but I have distant family that lives there (the type of distant where you know they exist, but you've never met). My grandma lives in the Upper Peninsula so I've been there and of course across the Mackinac bridge. There are very few places on earth prettier, and the water is amazing to look at but super cold even in the hottest part of the summer. Not quite cold enough to stop me going in, but close.

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    1. We're putting Mackinac on our to do list since it's about 100 miles away and maybe stay overnight. You should put TC on your to do list. There are plenty of places you could meet the family for the first time. Such good food, so says my thighs!

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  5. you should write for the bureau of tourism there...this so made me want to go, and I can honestly say Michigan has never been on my radar :D

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    1. Thanks! It was never on my radar either but after hearing about it for so long, I finally broke down and now I'm kicking myself for not going sooner!

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  6. Hey there! This is Valerie from sparkpeople! I am so glad you enjoyed your trip to my home state! I live over in Grand Rapids and I absolutely love TC. Its so beautiful. Did you guys get to go see any of the old asylum? Its a pretty neat look into the past that they are now working on renovating and breathing new life into. My husband and I like to take random drives and more than once he has surprised me by ending up there. Also, if you're in Michigan again I would suggest you visit Frankenmuth, its Christmas all year round there! You might never want to leave though! So be warned ;)

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    1. Yes! We went to the asylum (actually we almost stayed there but our budget wouldn't allow it this time. We're not making that mistake again) and the shops and restaurants are awesome. Then they left some of it all old and spooky on the far wing and I meant to take pics there but forgot after a bad Octoberfest experience. LOL

      We went to Frankenmuth a few years ago and I really enjoyed Bronners Christmas store but I also got food poisoning from one of the popular restaurants there so I don't have a burning need to return just yet. HA!

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  7. Thanks for a trip "home". I still miss Michigan in the fall.

    And yes Frankenmuth is a must for any "Christmas Freak"

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  8. I did some Googling from the link you posted yesterday about the Traverse City Pie Restaurant (I forget the name now), and have decided that area is my next vacation! It looks like my kind of place! And that first picture you posted of the Lighthouse is nicer than the one Traverse City has on their website! Nice pictures!!!

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    1. Yay!! It is simply adorable there! Front Street is home to an amazing couple of blocks of shopping and because it was raining any time we were down there, my pics weren't the best. The first day we spent 6 hours walking all over downtown, Old Town, the Warehouse District and Slabtown. The Grand Traverse Commons in the old asylum was also really cool! No tourists either since the season was over so if you don't like crowds, this time of year is the time to go! (Though I'm sure it's lovely any time of year...well, winter might get interesting! HA!)

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  9. OMG, beautiful!! I have never been to Michigan but it seems like everyone who goes there always has beautiful pictures and great stories. Need to put this on my bucket list for sure.

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    1. I'll tell ya, I never expected to love it as much as I did but I wanted to cry when we left. I could live there in a heartbeat.

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  10. Beautiful pics. Had to mapquest it because sounds like a place I and husband could enjoy very much ...15 hrs....maybe one day.

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    1. It would be a long drive but there is an airport in town (which also had a beautiful entrance) that has 3 major carriers if you can find a good airfare deal!

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  11. What beautiful photos--they really make me want to go on vacation! I love how you had the beaches all to yourself (or so it seems from your photos). That's a definite upside of traveling in the fall!

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    1. We never had more than 8 people on the beach at one time and most of the time it was no one! I mean we couldn't hop in the water but I'm not big on that anyway, I just love looking at the water and that's good any temp and even better when you can have it to yourself with amazing autumn colors surrounding you!

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  12. Yup, sounds like the TC I remember. If you get a chance and they are still doing the Tall Ship Malibar cruises, that was fun. It is an old sailing ship and you go out, eat a box dinner (nothing spectacular, but fine) and watch the sunset out on the water while watching the old sailors maneuver that big ole sailing ship like it was nothing. Lots of fun memories from there. Mackinac is great as well, you would enjoy it.

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    1. OH! And absolutley GORGEOUS pics, by the way!!

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    2. I will have to check that out. There was NO WAY we could've done any kind of sailing the week we were there, especially the first few days. Boats were sideways they were rocking so bad in the bay. I wanted to see tall ships but I think they were maybe docked for the season because I didn't see any. (I wanted to get some pics) I definitely want to go up to Mackinac too sometime.

      Thanks, I had fun taking them! I can't wait to take more!

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  13. Oh! So happy to see your blog on my homestate!!! I grew up on the opposite side of the state in Alpena and have to be honest, have never been to TC. The whole state is a gorgeous place to be!! If you ever return, consider the old shipwrecks in Thunder Bay/Alpena. I'm so glad you posted all these pictures and that you both enjoyed your vacation!

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    1. I'll have to check that out. At this point, I'll make any excuse to go back. I'm willing to hop in the car right now for pie and sitting by the bay!

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  14. Lovely photos! I might be in Lansing next summer; I'll add this to my itinerary, even if only for a few days.

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    1. You would LOVE Front Street and then cross the street to the bay to hang out and watch the water. Lots of great restaurants including some healthy ones but sadly I didn't seem to have those on my radar. *blush*

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  15. Your photos of the area were beautiful. But, more than anything, I was astounded at just how *tiny* you and the Mr. are! I hadn't seen any pictures of the two of you posted for awhile, so it was a shock. It looks like all of your hard workouts are paying off.

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    1. Aww, why thanks! I certainly morphed from the beginning of the trip of feeling decent to feeling like a Stay Puft Marshmallow woman from pie and s'more bloat! HA!

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  16. Some beautiful pics!!
    I've been to Traverse City but only to ski and never left the resort so it's nice to see what TC looks like!

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    1. I think I can get the Mr up there to cross country ski while I snowshoe. I'd love to see the lighthouses with snow and ice around them!

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  17. I grew up in northern Michigan and spent lots of time in TC since our little town didn't have any clothing stores or a mall. It's absolutely gorgeous. I'm so glad you had fun!

    If you ever have time, you would love Marquette and that area of the U.P, but it's quite a drive. For you, I'd probably recommend flying into TC and then renting a car. Marquette is about three hours from the Mackinac Bridge. (I went to college there.) It would be totally worth it in the fall. If you thought TC was gorgeous, wait 'til you see the fall colors in the U.P. :) Plus, you'd get a kick out of Da Yooper Tourist Trap.

    I know what you mean about the hospitality. That's one thing I ache for. When I hit a deer and totaled my car, it was 8:00 a.m. I was 19 years old, so this was before cell phones, and I was on a county road. No fewer than ten people stopped, though. The first guy went ahead to the next town to call the sheriff. Then a few other people stopped, and every single one of them offered coffee, a donut, or just a warm car to sit in while I waited for the sheriff. This continued for a half-hour or more. I declined every offer, but it brought me to tears to know there were such kind people in the world.

    (Man, this is long.)

    Anyway, since you love Christmas so much, I highly recommend another trip to MI to check out Bronner's. It's open 364 days per year, and it's a HUGE warehouse-style store full of nothing but Christmas decor and ornaments:

    http://www.bronners.com/

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    1. I will definitely look up the info on Marquette. That does sound like quite a haul if it's 3 hours from Mackinac! Your car scenario sounds exactly the way I picture people reacting. They are just so nice there. (It's kind of sad how novel that is these days. Shouldn't we all be that nice?)

      I've been to Bronners. I'm not a fan of the crowds but it was definitely neat to visit!

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  18. Those pictures are so beautiful, and you guys look so small.

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  19. What's up, slim?! You look amazing :)

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  20. Oh. My. Gosh!!!! Those are amazing pictures!!! Looks like it was a fabulous vacation.

    And who are those skinny people in all those pictures?!? ;-) You guys look FABULOUS!

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    1. Yes, it certainly was. I can't wait to go back! I've already been bookmarking places to stay.

      Skinny...bwaaaahahaha! Thanks though! ;)

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  21. What a spectacular place! You really should send a link to this blog to the TC tourism office. They owe you a paycheck! If nothing else, they'd get a kick out of it, for sure. You are so incredibly creative. Thank you for sharing the beauty of you with me!

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    1. I have thought about it especially since it's gotten such a great response! You are so kind Missy! Love ya girl!

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  22. Love the swings on the beach! I would be there until the weather wouldn't allow it. You and the Mr. really know how to live! I love being envious of you! Who would have ever thought Traverse City, Michigan. It worked out great that the Mr. had a good memory so you could explore it together.

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  23. Looks like my kind of getaway spot! Glad you enjoyed yourselves. You two look terrific! I'm so far behind on blog reading/responding...not even funny, but I do enjoy popping in on you guys!



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